“But that’s nothing compared to this final charge,” she went on, gazing at her seriously. “Nothing compared to kidnapping.”
Leta stared avidly at the piece of paper. “Kidnapping?” She adopted a look of surprise. “Who’s been kidnapping? That sounds serious.”
“We certainly take it seriously. Stealing a nineteen-year-old girl from her home in the dead of the night is something we take very, very seriously.”
“I’m truly glad to hear that,” said Leta earnestly. Then she breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank gods that’s not what happened last night.”
“What, exactly, do you think happened?”
“I know what happened. The girl acted of her own free will when she came aboard and she can leave whenever she likes. I’m sure she’d tell you the same thing.”
Tiya leaned back in her chair, surveying Leta through narrowed slits of her eyes. Quite abruptly, she said, “That captain of yours. Soliveré. You trust him, do you?”
For the first time, Leta was given reason to pause. Her mind flashed back to when, months ago now, Fiearius threw himself in that fighting ring with her. Or later, the look on his face when he’d spoken at Aiden’s funeral. Or much more recently, the lopsided grin he’d cast her when he passed over a whiskey bottle and spilled his life story.
“Yes,” she stated quietly, “I do.”
Tiya arched her eyebrows high on her forehead. “You do, do you? Now that is touching. Foolish of you, but touching. You know, you don’t strike me as sentimental.”
“I’m not. But people can surprise you.”
“Indeed.” Tiya cocked her head to the side and abruptly slid the papers closer again. This time, her smile was eerie and broad. “And we know a few surprising things about you, Miss Adler, don’t we?”
Before Leta could begin to guess where this was going, Tiya flipped over the paper and darted her eyes over it. “Tell me. Does that captain you like so much know about your employers?”
Leta’s heart was beginning to flutter in her chest. But all she said was, her voice flat, “The hospital? Unity Healthcare Clinic? Sure.”
“No, no, not those employers, my dear.” She looked up, her smile glinting. “Does he know you work for the Society?“
Leta went very still, pressing her palms into the table. “I don’t,” she said, her first honest confession in the whole interrogation. “I don’t work for them.”
Tiya pressed her lips together and murmured, “No, hm? Says right here in their records that you do — “
“That’s not true,” said Leta at once, resisting the urge to snatch the paper out of her hands. “I’d never work for them again. Ever. I worked in their labs, but I left years ago — “
“And you think Soliveré will believe that?”
Her words sliced through the room and halted her in place. That was yet another thing Fiearius would probably never forgive her for, she thought, feeling a brush of hysteria.
“Of course he will,” she said quietly. Tiya’s eyes — it was infuriating — actually softened with pity.
“Listen,” she said, leaning over and patting her hand, “Listen, Leta. You tell us where Richelle Donovan is, and Soliveré will never hear from us that you’re working for the people who want him and his brother dead. How’s that sound, Miss Adler? We won’t tell him you’re a Society spy.”
Silence followed her words, and then Officer Tiya leaned over and carefully, painstakingly, unrolled Leta’s sleeve for her — exposing her own Society mark, which somehow looked brighter, shining. It was the mark she kept hidden beneath her sleeve since her first day aboard the Dionysian.
Leta looked down her arm, then up at the officer.
“I’m not a spy. Richelle wasn’t kidnapped, and you can tell him whatever you like,” she breathed at last. “Tell him, go ahead. It doesn’t matter — it doesn’t even anymore.”
“Oh no? It doesn’t matter?” Tiya said, almost tauntingly. “Why — are you perhaps ready to confess? Or! Are you planning to leave that scum of a crew after all?”
Leta could have laughed. Or cried. All at once, she felt a wave of emotion so powerful that it exhausted her, and all she could do was mumble, “Yes, something like that.”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“I didn’t kidnap anyone,” said Fiearius breezily, as if he and Aster were out to brunch and not two hours into this interrogation. Aster was seated across from him, practically tearing his hair out in frustration as Fiearius ignored his every question, kicking the edge of his foot against the floor cheerfully, “This is boring. Let’s talk about something else. You seen any good films lately?”
His words were met with a raw growl of frustration as Aster slapped the middle of the table. The gun was still sitting pointedly between them, untouched for now, though Aster kept inching his hand toward it and then seeming to decide against it and dug his hands into his hair instead.
“There were witnesses,” he insisted for what had to be the twentieth time. “They saw you put a gun to her head and heard you threaten to kill her and watched you drag her away.”
“That sounds like a good one. I always like a good kidnapping drama. What’s it called? I don’t have much time for theaters anymore, but if I get a chance,” said Fiearius through a laugh.
Aster’s face was growing redder and redder. He tightened his fist. “Listen. I’ve got a team searching your ship right now, tearing it apart piece by piece. Any second now they’ll return with enough evidence to put you to death. So — how about you make your confession now?”
“What confession?” Fiearius asked innocently.
“What confession?! How can you even–it’s irrefutable!”
“No it’s not.”
“It is! We have at least eight confirmed testimonies that all line up. We have security feed of you entering the building. We have feed of you leaving the building. With her,” he snapped.
“Not me,” Fiearius remarked shortly.
“Of course, we made a mistake,” Aster groaned sarcastically, leaning back in his chair so hard it nearly tipped over. “There are plenty of people who look just like you. You’re incredibly commonplace.” He gestured vaguely to Fiearius who just blinked back at him absently. “We just mistook you for someone else.”
“Great. So can I go now?”
Aster’s eyes scrunched, his fists clenched, his teeth bared and he shouted, “Just tell me where she is!”
Fiearius tilted his head curiously. “Where who is?”
With a snarl, Aster suddenly pushed himself to his feet and pulled his gun with him. Fiearius followed the trajectory of the weapon curiously, his head tilted in interest. The Paraven police force wasn’t known for brutality, exactly, and there was simply no way this man had the authority to pull that trigger.
Still, it was quite a sight, watching this man struggle to release the safety mechanism of his gun (his hands were shaking with anger). He’d very nearly completed the gesture when the door behind him suddenly banged open, admitting another officer.
“Sir,” greeted the younger man. “We’ve got something you need to see.”
“Now, Shaw? Now?” cried Aster. “Can’t you see I’m — “
“Discussing arts and culture?” suggested Fiearius.
“ — busy?” finished Aster angrily. “Surely this can wait — “
“No. It can’t.” The young man lifted a slip of paper he held in his hand. “You’ll like this.”
Dropping the gun on the table, grumbling to himself, Aster joined the young man near the door. A few minutes passed in which they whispered back and forth, a murmured conversation. At last, Aster turned around, holding the paper in his hands.